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In this podcast by Dan Carlin's Hardcore history show, Dan mentions that there are areas inside of the Stalingrad pocket where human remains are openly visible above ground, exposed to the weather. For anyone familiar with the area, is this true?

If so, why weren't the remains buried?

On a side note- what is the status of those areas today?

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Why refer to the present-day city as Stalingrad rather than Volgograd? – Ben Crowell Feb 8 '15 at 21:15

The Peschanka/Stalingrad "bone fields" are discussed in this thread on Dan Carlin's forum. Dan cites:

  • Donovan Webster, Aftermath: The Remnants of War: From Landmines to Chemical Warfare — The Devastating Effects of Modern Combat

The other main source, whom I think Dan mentions in that show, is Walter Seledec, an Austrian TV editor/official (and apparently brigadier1) who brought footage of the remains at Volgograd back to Austria.

He was interviewed for a 1993 New Yorker article2 on the complicated legacy of Stalingrad and efforts to reinter the Austrian and German war dead. When the author visited Peschanka (a village to the west of Volgograd) in January of 1993 he only saw steppes covered in snow, but he wrote that he saw Seledec's photos and quoted Seledec's Russian guide (who helped German and Austrian organisations find and identify the dead) describing his childhood playing amongst skeletons and war wreckage, and how children are still injured or killed by unexploded ordnance.

Hundreds of thousands of men on both sides were unburied, buried in mass graves—and on the German side, buried in shallow icy graves by starving frostbitten men. According to the article, shallow graves were exposed by erosion and winter thaw or by farmers' tractors, and looted for militaria.

Some cemeteries marked on military maps from the period have been dug up, but reinterment and memorialisation are contentious issues. The article quotes Seledec saying that until 1992, Russia considered the Stalingrad battlefields a "sensitive area" and were "difficult" for foreigners to access. The Austrian government was able to push for the reinterment of their war dead because they were "identified by the Allies as 'the first victim' of National Socialist aggression" (author's words, not Seledec's), whereas Germany garnered less sympathy and the understandably bitter opposition of Red Army veterans.

I haven't tried to track down Seledec's documentary, but this paragraph mentions articles which could be looked up for more information:

Seledec's revelations caused a sensation in the Austrian press. Across the country, newspapers ran front-page stories bolstered by images of the scattered skeletons. The daily Kurier published a full-page story with the headline "THE DEATH FIELDS OF STALINGRAD." In the central province of Steiermark, a local paper headlined its report "BONE-LITTERED BATTLEFIELDS." Another daily paper, under the headline "BONES WITH IDENTITY TAGS," reported, "Skulls lie in helmets, decayed bones still stand in boots, on the spines hang the identity tags." Wiener, a popular monthly magazine, featured a story accompanied by a full-page color photograph of a skeleton lying in an open field, its arms at its sides. …

Seledec has been accused of crossing the line between commemorating ordinary Wehrmacht soldiers and celebrating Nazis.3

More recently:

  • "German WWII soldiers get proper burial after 60 years", The Age (2008)4
  • The German War Graves Commission's (Volksbund Deutsche Kriegsgräberfürsorge) page on the Rossoshka cemeteries (Russian and German), inaugurated in 19995
  • Volgograd tourist website on the Rossoshka cemeteries and various tours to excavation sites and the sites of reburial ceremonies for Soviet solders6

I don't have enough rep to include more than two links in my answer, so I've put the superscripted citations here.

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…actually, yes, the bone fields are still there. Especially around the Pitmonik Airfield, where balkas--eroded river banks--aren't plowed like the fields around them, and are littered with bones. I can show photos. I was there. There are still bones everywhere. You just have to slow down and look. Still, as of 1996, the Germans were allowed in to begin the business of identifying and burying the Wehrmacht dead with the help of Russians who know the landscape. It continues. Before that time, the USSR would not allow the bones to be moved, except by farmers plowing their fields and the uniforms the skeletal remains still wore clogged the tines of their plows. Still, since that time, many people have visited there after reading "Aftermath: The Remnants of War," and have tried to take home grisly souvenirs of the war. They are often found out at Russian customs during departure, and are often taken into Russian custody, to await trial and justice. This stuff is still taken very seriously. As for Walter Seledec, he was in the film "Aftermath: The Remnants of War," but was not interviewed in the book. How do I know? I wrote the book, was credited as a writer in the film, and have been back to see the changes, which are moving along, but are far from completed. --Donovan Webster

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Two main questions here:

  • Why weren't remains buried? They weren't buried because there simply was no opportunity. The Soviets could possibly evacuate part of their corpses during the battle, the Germans had nowhere to go. And during the winter months, the only thing to do was pile them up in heaps and cover them with rubble as best you can (if you had the time).
  • Are they still visible now? Highly unlikely. Anything left behind will have long since weathered away, been chewed up by animals, or picked up by souvenir hunters and post-battle grave details. And remember the area is now once again a large city, most of the original battle area has been plowed up, built over, cultivated for decades.
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There's clips on YouTube of the Pitmonik taken by tourists over the past few years. In them you'll see small remnants of mines, but no human remains.

This isn't to say that there aren't any remains, but I was envisioning vast fields of bones from the way Dan described them in the podcast.

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